Monday, 1 February 2010

Thin ice and Norman Cameron

Monday is one of my two days in at UEA -officially. In fact I am often there on other days. As I was leaving today, at the relatively early hour of 5pm, the ice in the car park looked like a skim of glass, everyone treading carefully, raising their feet high so the foot comes down flat and does not slide. It's a delicate, touching, clumsy process. There is something dreamlike about it in the dark. Perhaps it's car parks generally. Places of transit. Few people stop and stare and have conversations in car parks. We are either thinking of arriving or leaving, and, on the ice, perform this awkward little dance.

It is, as ever, the odd non-fitting things that fascinate. I work in my office. I mark work, I have tutorials and supervisions and meetings. That is Life One. But Life Two - the car park, the ice, the odd, dreamlike, dancing awkwardness - is no less real. Perhaps that is Life One and the office is Life Two. Life One plus Life Two must, I suppose, add up to Life Three, which is where the writing gets done.

Ah, but there is Norman Cameron:

Psychologists discovered that Miss B
Suffered from a split personality.
She had B-1, B-2, 3,4 and 5,
All of them struggling in one body alive.
B-1 got tipsy and B-2 fell ill,
B-3 got pregnant, B-4 paid the bill.
Well, that's enough of that. What about me?
I have, at least, N-1, N-2, N-3.
N-1 is a glutton, N-2 is a miser,
N-3 is different, but not much wiser.
Well, that's enough of that. What of N-0?
That's the N I'd really like to know.

The poem is called Nostalgia for Death, alas. Poor Cameron was a lovely poet. Martin Bell introduced me to his work. I have his Collected Poems, introduced by Robert Graves, second impression 1967, the first being in 1957. The Collected Poems is 72pp long but the poems only begin on p.25. He was forty-eight when he died. I have his translation of Villon too - a gorgeous thing. There's not a bad poem in the Collected, and many are memorable. Some are classics. Died in the same year as Dylan Thomas. Everyone remembers Thomas, said Martin. Life is unfair.

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